VESL is a charity (no. 1117908) and not-for-profit organisation. VESL is run by a dedicated team with extensive overseas experience, all of whom have been past volunteers and have a passionate commitment to run educational projects that are not only rewarding but beneficial to host communities in Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.

We are passionate about making each project a success and aim for every volunteer to feel proud of their achievement. VESL works closely with government and regional authorities before sending volunteers overseas to ensure all projects are of real and measurable benefit to local communities.


United States


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Yes, I recommend this program

Even though I didn't know thai I was really good at communicating with my family and learning body language. However the only time language was a barrier was during Sports Day. On Sports Day the highschool goes all out with a parade and competitions. My class was in the Akani team, which means orange. I was part of the parade and all glamed up after the parade I was told to run in the final Super hero run, which wasn't suppose to be competitive at all. However I saw everyone else competeing in the other races. So i ended up turning the fun group run into a competition with myself. Other students from their respective teams were running and skipping together bringing the event to an end. Everyone except me. I was running my heart out wearing a cape and underwear thinking I was making my team proud. Everyone was laughing and telling me to stop running so fast but I didn't understand and finished my run so quickly and awkwardly. It was an embarrassing but hilarious day.

What would you improve about this program?
I honestly have nothing to complain about. I wish it was longer. I had a great experience. And loved every second about it
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Yes, I recommend this program

I went to Thailand with VESL in 2012 and I had an amazing time.
As I was living with a host family, this really gave me the chance to engage within all aspects of the culture and life over in Thailand.
The children were a very well behaved and mannered, an absolute delight to teach.
VESL gave me a lot of support and helped both here in England and when overseas. With basic training before I went and then support when in the school in Thailand.
I would Highly recommend VESL to my friends and family if they are looking for a voluntary opportunity overseas.

What would you improve about this program?
If I had to change anything it would be that I should have participated within a longer project as I did not want to come home after 6 weeks of teaching.
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Yes, I recommend this program

The six week program that I did with VESL was one of the best experiences of my life. I met some great people and made some amazing friends, Thai and English. The support throughout the program was excellent, their was 24 hour help just on the other end of the phone and my student leader would be with me in an instant if there was any problems.

The host family that I was placed with were brilliant, they were understanding that I was from a different culture and offered me Western foods and tried to make me feel as comfortable as possible. Obviously it has its difficulties, such as no running shower, the toilet situation and mosquitos, but you excpect and anticipate these sorts of things before you come out.
My day to day was filled with leaving my host family in the morning and cycling to school, where I would do 2-3 hours of English lessons, from Kindergarten up to grade 6, so from 3-14. I would teach on my own in a class of around 20, or team teach the larger classes with my project partner.

What would you improve about this program?
There is not one thing that I would change- except the weather!
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Yes, I recommend this program

I've been fortunate enough to volunteer with VESL for the past two years as a student coordinator, based in Thailand for a large part of both Summers. I've worked with other charities before but none so far have compared to VESL.

It's run by a team of extremely dedicated past volunteers and what I think is so great about this charity is that you really don't need any experience. I've seen people go with no teaching experience at all but they had the right attitude and had the time of their lives. The programmes benefit both the pupils in Sri Lanka, India and Thailand but also the volunteers.

I think if I had to choose one highlight it would be the day that myself and my team taught a group of secondary school teachers. They were so kind and fun and willing to learn, we spent hours singing songs and having fun - then after that they took us all out for lunch and taught us some thai. Another highlight would be just how great the kids are. So disciplined and so eager, it was brilliant to leave them knowing that they had significantly better English skills than before our arrival - and that hopefully they would be inspired to continue on this path of learning.

I would reccomend VESL to absolutely any one, as long as you like meeting new people, aren't afraid of a bit of hard work and as long as you're ready for a life changing experience :)

What would you improve about this program?
If I could change one thing, I would have made sure I spoke more Thai before I went, but I will be doing that this year!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Great experience, host family warm and welcoming, real Indian experience through living with a family. Happy to cater to your needs, everyone very protective of you. Only issue I encountered was in school, with headteacher wanting to spend 'wild fund' money on pointless things, also didn't receive much support from teachers in the school.
In country support was great, visited many places and met many people through the in country support.

What would you improve about this program?
Having more in country support (supervisors) would be good as 1 between 3 volunteers wasn't ideal


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Alumni Interviews

Alumni interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Kath McGuire

Kath McGuire is an Australian originally who has lived in Cambridge, England for about 12 years. She is passionate about education (both teaching and learning) and loves to travel. She is 36 years old and doesn’t think she’ll ever settle down.
A volunteer with local kids from South East Asia

Why did you decide to volunteer with VESL?

Kath: I chose VESL because they offered the sorts of projects I was looking for (teaching English for about 3 months staying with a host family) and they were affordable. I was really impressed that VESL run an information and selection day, which is as much about the volunteer choosing VESL as it is about VESL choosing the volunteer. They are a very friendly, relaxed charity and yet they provide a very professional service. I felt very comfortable with the people who run it. Plus, the photos of Sri Lanka on their website looked amazing!

What made this experience unique and special?

Kath: The mix of independence and support was fantastic. There was always someone at the end of the phone/email if I needed anything. Yet I was very much able to make the project my own and do what I wanted to do with it. I loved living with host families. I’ve learnt so much about Sri Lankan, Indian and Thai cultures and seen some incredible places.

South East Asia Scenery

How has this experience impacted your future?

Kath: My volunteering with VESL has completely changed my life. I am much more confident now than I was before. My comfort zone is much bigger (and I didn’t even notice it expanding). I am a better communicator. I am more tolerant of differences. I chose to do a teaching qualification as a result of volunteering with VESL. I’ve changed the direction of my professional life too. I’m now hoping to find a career in international development with a focus on education. VESL has opened my eyes to the world and opened my heart to some truly wonderful people.

More Interviews

Staff Interviews

Staff interviews are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Lauren Pluss

Job Title
Programme Manager at VESL

Tell us a little about VESL and your role at the company.

Lauren sightseeing

Lauren: I am the Programme Manager at VESL, we are a very small charity; it is only myself and another member of staff. We don't have an office, I work from home which enables us to keep our costs down. My role is very varied from recruiting volunteers to go overseas, to training volunteers, to going overseas to visit the projects myself. I love the role, I get to meet amazing people along the way and feel that as a past volunteer I can provide honest information about what it is like to volunteer with VESL and what to expect once overseas.

How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?

Lauren: I finished university in 2011 and decided I wanted to volunteer overseas and do some travelling, I found out about VESL through a Careers Fair at Edinburgh University and volunteered with them in India in September 2011. Before I went to India I wasn't 100% sure about what career path I wanted to take, but I loved the time I spent in India and was very close to extending my stay. When I returned from India, I decided I wanted to get into the charity sector, I completed an internship with a charity called Build Africa and then did an internship with VESL and was a Student Leader (I lead a team of students to India this summer). I applied for the role of Programme Manager before going to India and was ecstatic to get it, I thoroughly enjoy the role, and love how varied it is.

What makes VESL unique?

Lauren: We are a very small charity and take time to get to know each of our volunteers, I think that is really important and is what attracted me to volunteering with VESL in the first place. The fact that I am a past volunteer I feel is also extremely important, as it means I am able to give honest and reliable information about what it is like to volunteer with VESL and what to expect once overseas.

We keep our costs to the minimum possible, which has led us in the past to have to run additional fundraising events. I think the fact that a lot of our past volunteers have volunteered with us again and/or run additional fundraising events for VESL, is a great testament to the work that we do. We work with country managers in India, Sri Lanka and Thailand as well as local NGO's and governments to choose projects that are beneficial to host communities and that are rewarding for our volunteers.

In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?

kids at the beach

Lauren: I think someone that has a real passion for the work we do, who is flexible, adaptable and someone who is willing to 100% per cent get involved in the project, culture and community life. We believe that each of our volunteers is able to make a small but measurable difference at the projects that we send them too, and to do this volunteers need to fully throw themselves into life in country, be open to things changing and be able to use their initiative.

What does the future hold for VESL?

Lauren: VESL will celebrate it's tenth year in 2013 of sending volunteers overseas, so we are planning a reunion event for all of our past volunteers. We are looking at sending our largest ever number of volunteers in 2013 and are looking in Thailand and India to expand the number of projects to meet the increasing demand.